Boston Celtics (4-0) at Miami Heat (4-1)
Sunday, May 1
3:30 PM ET
Playoff Game #5 Road Game #3
Radio: WEEI, WAXY
American Airlines Arena
Referees: Not yet announced
This is the matchup that everyone assumed would happen from the opening night of the regular season when they faced each other. There are so many sub-plots in this series and there is sure to be plenty of drama. The Celtics won 3 of 4 from the Heat in the regular season, losing only their last game when the Celtics were in the midst of their end of the year mini-slump.
For LeBron James, this has to be personal. First of all, he hasn’t been able to get past the Celtics in the playoffs since the 2007-08 season. The Celtics embarrassed LeBron’s Cavs in last year’s playoffs as they were expected to steamroll through the playoffs but came up short as LeBron put in sub-par performances due to either his boo-boo elbow or his mother’s indiscretions, depending on who you believe.
The Celtics bench, in spite of being loaded, played poorly against the Knicks. In 3 of the 4 games, Doc was forced to play the starters more minutes because the bench was giving up leads and not playing well. In the 4th game, the bench finally started to play well and even increased the lead when they were in. The Celtics will need strong play from Big Baby, Jeff Green and Delonte especially. Hopefully a few good days of practice will help them play up to their capabilities. Shaq’s status is still up in the air as is the status of both Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller for the Heat.
It will be important for the Celtics to get off to a strong start in this game and in the series. They need to get the first punch in and not let up. They need to keep the Heat on their heels and not allow them to gain confidence in this series.
Probable Starting Matchups
Rajon Rondo 19.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 12.0 APG 1.0 SPG
Mike Bibby 3.2 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.0 SPG
Ray Allen 22.0 PPG, 2.3 APG, .654 3P%
Dwyane Wade 22.2 PPG, 5.2 APG, .200 3P%
Paul Pierce 22.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.5 APG
LeBron James 24.2 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 6.2 APG
Kevin Garnett 15.5 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 0.8 BPG
Chris Bosh 19.8 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 1.2 BPG
Jermaine O’Neal 5.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.5 BPG
Zydrunas Ilgauskas 5.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 0.4 BPG
Boston Bench Mob
Shaquille O’Neal (calf/old age/Danny’s smokescreen) day to day
Udonis Haslem (foot) day to day
Mike Miller (thumb) day to day
In this series, every matchup is key. Any player who under performs and give the team a mismatch could swing it either way. Let’s take a look at each matchup.
Rajon Rondo vs Mike Bibby
It’s pretty obvious to anyone who has followed the Celtics at all that as Rondo goes, so go the Celtics. It’s also obvious to anyone who has watched the Heat that they don’t have an answer for him when he is on his game. Rondo was back to early season form in round 1 and hopefully will continue to play well in this series. His speed and his aggressiveness will be key to this series. In game 5 of the Philly series the Heat seemed to realize that Mario Chalmers was a better option for them as they started Chalmers in the second half and played Bibby sparingly. It will be interesting to see if they go with Chalmers over Bibby in this series as well.
Ray Allen vs Dwyane Wade
Ray shot a blistering 65% from beyond the arc in the first round. Of course, he won’t find himself wide open quite as often against Miami as he did against the Knicks. Wade, along with James and probably everyone on the team will take their turn trying to corral Rondo and so Ray may end up with Bibby or Chalmers on him, in which case he would have an easier time. Wade has been playing well, but not shooting well from outside. We can only hope that this will continue in this round.
Paul Pierce vs LeBron James
Paul Pierce goes from having to guard Carmelo Anthony to having to guard LeBron James. He takes these matchups personally and his defense can’t be overlooked. The more effort he has to spend on the defensive end, the less effective he tends to be on the offensive end. The Celtics won’t stop LeBron but they can hope to make it difficult for him and make him have to work for everything he gets. Pierce leads the Celtics in scoring but James leads the Heat in just about everything.
Kevin Garnett vs Chris Bosh
In the past, Bosh tends to allow KG to get into his head. Hopefully this trend continues and KG can cause him to play soft and be ineffective. Bosh’s play may be the X-Factor for the Heat just as Rondo’s is the X-Factor for the Celtics. If they can get strong play from Bosh it gives them a much better chance of winning. It will be up to KG to be his most intimidating and intense self and bully Bosh back into his shell.
Jermaine O’Neal vs Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Jermaine O’Neal played very well against the Knicks and if he can continue playing well, the Celtics should have an advantage over the Heat in the middle. Shaq is still day to day and there is a possibility that he could play in this series, which would be a huge boost for the team. Even if he doesn’t play, JO, Big Baby and Nenad Krstic have the advantage over Ilgauskas, Anthony, Magloire and Dampier.
The Celtics will lean mostly on Glen Davis, Delonte West, Jeff Green, and Nenad Krstic off the bench while Miami’s key subs will be Mario Chalmers, James Jones, Joel Anthony, and Mike Miller. Depth off the bench has been a problem for the Heat this season and often their starters have had to play big minutes because of it. They have Jame Jones who can hit some big shots and Joel Anthony has his moments. Mike Miller has been a disappointment and Chalmers recently has been out-playing Bibby. The Heat could get a huge boost for their bench if Udonis Haslem could return. He has been out most of the season but has been practicing and may be ready to play in this series. If he can go, he gives them toughness and a post presence. The Celtics have the better bench, but other than game 4, they didn’t play well in round 1. Hopefully a few days of practice will get them performing up to their capabilities.
Doc Rivers vs Erik Spoelstra
Spoelstra has gotten a lot of criticism for the Heat’s performance or lack there of early in the season. But recently he has been also getting credit for their improvement. However, he is no match for Doc and his playoff pedegree. The more intense the games, the more having an experienced coach is important.
Keys to the Game
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics must limit their turnovers as the Heat will turn them into fast break points. Wade in particular is good at making teams pay for their turnovers. The Celtics averaged 17 turnovers per game vs the Knicks and they have to cut that number way down for this series.
Rebound – The Celtics have to limit the Heat’s second chance baskets and fast breaks by crashing the boards. The amount of effort put into winning the rebound battle often follows through to the other areas of the game. The Celtics must be aggressive in beating the Heat to rebounds. The Celtics out-rebounded the Knicks in all but game 2. Every player must make it a priority to go after rebounds.
Defense - The Heat have tried to make defense their calling card this season. The Celtics have to make defense a priority as well. Defense wins games and defense wins championships. If the Celtics can’t get stops, they won’t win the game. The Heat ended the season winning 23 straight games when they scored 100 or more points. The Celtics must play defense and limit their scoring. If they can hold the Heat below 100 they have a much better chance of winning the game.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics have got to be aggressive in getting to the basket and not settle for jumpers all game. They also have to be aggressive in diving for loose balls and winning the 50-50 battles. The Celtics can’t afford to give up possessions by failing to hustle after loose balls and after rebounds. They also must take it to the basket especially if the jumpers aren’t falling.
Team Ball - The Celtics need to play team ball. When they move the ball and make the extra pass and find the open man and play as a team, they are tough to beat. When they revert to hero ball and there is little ball movement and they settle for quick shots, they rarely win. Rondo is a big part of keeping the ball moving and setting up the offense and so hopefully he will be at his best in this series. They need team play to beat a team with 2.5 superstars on it.
Rust vs Rest & Officials
The Celtics have been off for a week while the Heat have been off for just 3 days. The rest has to have done the older Celtics some good and help to heal some of the bumps and bruises. But, rest can also cause a team to come out rusty and get off to a slow start. Hopefully they will start strong and not let the layoff affect them. We have seen in several cases already in the playoffs how officiating can affect series. So far the officials weren’t bad in the Celtics first round games and we can only hope that continues. But Wade and LeBron both get to the line a lot, whether they have been fouled or not. The Heat average almost 29 free throws a game while the Celtics average 23 FT per game. Hopefully the refs call it fair but that’s a lot to hope for.